Rebecca Black Writes About Cyberbullying in NBC Essay: “It was open season and I was the target.”

Rebecca Black was only thirteen years old when her music video, “Friday,” went viral. A deluge of scorn and mockery followed. Six years later, she opened up about her experience in an essay on NBC: “What I Learned from Being a Target of Internet Hate at Age 13.”

 

As parents, when we read about cyberbullying, our first impulse is to protect our children, to keep them from becoming targets. While understandable, this knee-jerk reaction is unhelpful, because our first impulse should be to prevent our children from becoming bullies.

 

Surely not our children, though. Never ours! And yet, as Ms. Black points out in her essay, “It is increasingly obvious to me that every single one of us is experiencing pain, and trying to deal with it in one way or another.” No matter how privileged or pampered our children may seem, each one has disappointments and hurts he or she is trying to emotionally metabolize. When we don’t properly handle emotional pain, we can’t contain it, and we end up weaponizing our pain and hurting others. Ms. Black calls this cycle “the chain of pain.”

 

When the internet became accessible to all, suddenly all hurting individuals, all of us, gained an outlet. We could rant and rave, mock and threaten, all from the safety and anonymity of our computers. We could tear another person to shreds without ever seeing his face. In a few short decades, the chain of pain has become infinitely broader. Research shows that cyberbullying is more destructive than face to face bullying because the victims can never escape. They open their laptops and find hate. They turn on their phones and are told they are worthless. Is it any wonder teen and tween suicides frequently appear in the headlines?

 

Obviously, we should all keep careful tabs on our children’s digital communications– read texts, follow social media profiles, and periodically check private messages. However, this is the not enough. We must teach our children to end the cycle– to break down and digest hurt, disappointment, and rejection instead of passing it on. Rather than insisting “My child would never,” we need to make sure our children have healthy outlets and coping mechanisms for stress and disappointment. We also need to teach them to intervene if they ever witness or learn of online or offline bullying.

 

It was easy to make fun of Rebecca Black’s music video. The lyrics were uninspired, the singing heavily autotuned. We all forgot on the other side of the screen there was a thirteen year old girl with a dream. She didn’t deserve our unkindness, and neither does any other victim of cyberbullying.

 

To read Rebecca Black’s essay, titled “What I Learned from Being a Target of Internet Hate at Age 13,” click here.

 

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Pornography use predicts decreased religious observance in teens and young adults, study says

Faithful families, take notice! A recent study suggests that viewing pornography leads to lower levels of religious observance and belief in God.

 

The researchers, Samuel L. Perry of University of Oklahoma and George M. Hayward of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wanted to explore “how viewing pornography may shape young Americans’ connection to key social and cultural institutions, like religion.” They used data from the first three portions of a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of young Americans. When the survey began, the participants were between thirteen and seventeen years of age. At the end of the third portion of the study, the participants ranged in age between eighteen and twenty-four years old. For those unfamiliar with academic research procedure, such data is difficult and expensive to obtain and considered the “gold standard” of data collection.

 

Upon examination of the data, Perry and Hayward found that, the more often teens and young adults viewed pornography, the less often they attended church and prayed. The participants who viewed more pornography were also less likely to value religion, perceived less closeness to God, and had more religious doubts than those who did not view pornography.

 

The article reiterates previous research in noting the probable role of cognitive dissonance in these results. In other words, religious individuals who engage with pornography feel the conflict between their actions and their religious values. Such conflict is extremely emotionally uncomfortable, and we as humans either change our values or our behavior to alleviate these feelings of guilt and shame. Unfortunately, changing one’s values is often easier in the moment than discontinuing habit-forming behavior like pornography use.

 

To read the study in full, click here!

 

Research shows again and again that pornography erodes the best of each of us: our values, our self-control, and our relationships. Parents who want to protect their homes and families can no longer afford to do nothing! Talk to your children about online pornography from infancy. Initially, these conversations won’t be about sexuality or explicit content, but about kindness, respect, and house rules for technology use. However, these simple themes will lay a foundation and prepare both the parents and the kids over time to tackle more advanced topics like pornography, self-control, social media use, and more.

 

Talking to your kids about pornography can be intimidating, but it is easier than it sounds and absolutely essential. Click here to read more about family internet safety on our blog and start the conversation today!

 

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How to recover deleted browsing history– A must-know for parents!

Maybe there’s a suspiciously large gap in your computer’s browser history. Maybe one of your kids seems unusually glued to the internet. Maybe you see more raunchy ads than usual. Maybe your computer got a virus for the first time. Or maybe you just have a hunch that something is not right. Either way, it might be time to check if your computer’s browser history has been deleted.

 

Now, why would someone delete a computer’s browser history? Many people periodically delete their browsing history along with cookies, temporary files, etc. to clean up their computer and increase their internet speed. However, kids are more likely to delete browser history if they’ve been out of bounds online. It doesn’t take much tech savviness at all, so kids either already know how or can learn how quickly. As a parent, it’s important to know how and where your kids spend their time online, just like you keep track of their whereabouts offline.

 

So, if you suspect your internet history has been tampered with, here’s what to do.

 

First, open your start menu and search for “System Restore.” Your computer may come back with with “System Restore,” “Create a Restore Point,” or something similar– pick the closest match.

 

Choose a restore point (a date and time), and click through any prompts. After the computer is done, reboot and check your browser history again. Anything that has been deleted since the date and time of your restore point will be there, and you’ll know if you need to be worried.

 

Alternatively, Clean Router records every website visited on your home internet network– even incognito browsing! You can choose to receive an email report, or check over the browsing history any time at Settings.CleanRouter.com. It’s easy, effective, and less than 50 cents a day!

 

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You may think this internet safety rule is obsolete– It’s not

We all heard it from our mothers: “Never talk to strangers.” Then the internet came out, and our mothers doubled down. If talking to strangers in person was risky, talking to strangers online was simply begging for disaster. We made pseudonyms and kept all identifying information off-line.

 

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media profiles made the internet seem smaller. Safer. Most people use their real names online now, and convenience has led us to handle everything from homework to photo sharing to banking online. We give out our mailing addresses on eBay and Craigslist, and we assume the person on the other side of the screen is more or less like us. And most of the time, we’re right.

 

And yet…

 

Our kids are getting a little too comfortable talking to strangers online. While we as adults have been around the block a few times, they don’t notice the red flags. This dad described on his blog how his daughter became a target for a human trafficking ring through making friends online. Police are deeply concerned about SnapMaps, a SnapChat feature that broadcasts users’ location for any of their online friends to see.

 

The person on the other side of the screen may be a normal teen or tween, just like your kids. But the person on the other side of the screen could be anyone. Profile pics can be stolen, birthdays can be falsified– online, anyone can make a new identity. Teens just don’t have the life experience to pick out the predators.

 

Parents, monitor your kids’ friends list. Ask questions. Know who your kids talk to online. Have a family rule– don’t talk to strangers online. Enforce it. The principle of “Trust, but verify” will serve you well here!

 

The internet may feel smaller, but the predators are still there. And, as the lines blur between online and offline, it’s far too easy to forget the dangers.

 

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Why you need to monitor your kids online

“What about their privacy?”

 

The never-ending struggle of parenting is finding the right balance between giving your kids enough autonomy to learn and grow and enough supervision to keep them safe. When kids start spending time online, many parents wonder if checking their browser history, demanding their kids’ passwords, and otherwise keeping tabs on what their kids do online violates their kids’ privacy. Checking your kid’s phone or tablet can seem a little too invasive– like reading their journal or taking the door off the bathroom.

 

It’s interesting that electronic use seems so private. On the one hand, adults often send and receive confidential information online. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers are all clearly designed for one user at a time, and peeking over at someone else’s screen runs counter to modern social etiquette. On the other hand, the very nature of the internet is intensely public. With a keyboard and an internet connection, everyone and anyone can publish thoughts and ideas for the world to see. Each link clicked and website visited is stored in your internet browser and available to anyone with any computer savvy.  While online journals exist, nothing online is really a secret.

 

The lines between the online and off-line world are blurring out of existence. This means everything in the physical world– the beautiful, the horrific, the virtuous, and the evil– is reflected on the internet. When your child opens a browser, he or she is walking into the world. THE world, mind you, not his or her own world. We tend to think of social media as a digital tree house or school yard– something intimate, juvenile, innocent– when, in fact, the ocean or New York City would a better comparison. The internet is beautiful, loud, unforgiving, stormy, and yes, dangerous. If you wouldn’t let your child dive into the ocean alone or wander a metropolis, you should not let your child use the internet unsupervised.

 

An internet connection is access to every corner of the earth, and almost every person alive. And yet, we hand this power to children too young to walk out the door alone. Leaving our children to explore the internet alone is not respect for their privacy. It is tempting fate.

 

Use the internet to show children the ocean of humanity. Teach them to respect the roaring waves of politics, art, music, and ideas. Demonstrate to them how to stand on the stage of the internet and fight for what they believe in. But please, don’t let them swim alone.

 

Keep your family safe online!

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Research links media multitasking to distractibility

Do you scroll Facebook while watching television? Or listen to music while typing a research paper? Play a game on your smartphone as you listen to an audiobook? According to a new study, you may be hurting your memory and attention span.

 

Media multitasking– consuming more than one source of media at a time– has been increasingly common since the advent of the smartphone. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, half of teens watch TV or use social media while doing homework, and over half text (60%) or listen to music (76%) while doing homework. Furthermore, most of those who do so don’t believe it affects the quality of their work.

 

Unfortunately, a new study begs to differ. Conducted at the University of Helsinki as part of the doctoral thesis of Mona Moisala, the study followed 149 teens and young adults between the ages of thirteen and twenty-four years old. The participants self-reported the amount of time they spent media multitasking and completed various tasks that required attention and focus while researchers measure their brain activity with an MRI. Those who admitted to greater amounts of time spent media multitasking performed worse on the attention, memory, and focus tests. Furthermore, their brains showed higher levels of activity in the areas related to attention and self-control, indicating these participants had to work harder than the others to stay focused and complete the required tasks. You can read more about the study and Moisala’s doctoral thesis here and here.

 

It’s fairly obvious that multitasking makes us slower. Some of us may even admit that switching back and forth between jobs leads to a lower quality result. However, this research suggests the consequences of multitasking may extend far beyond the tasks we juggle. The more we multitask, particularly when media consumption is involved, the more we train our brains not to focus. We lose the ability to tune out distractions, our self-control weakens, and our memories don’t stick.

 

The adage is if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Perhaps the more applicable lesson for 2017 is if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing single-mindedly.

 

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Three reasons to turn off your smartphone today

Did you know the average person spends almost 3 hours a day on their smartphone? That’s about 20 hours a week– the equivalent of a part time job! Here are three reasons to take a well-deserved vacation from your smartphone.

 

1.Your brain needs quiet

A growing body of research shows that downtime is essential for optimal brain function. Scientists believe a certain kind of brain activity, sharp-wave ripples, help us store and consolidate memories. These ripples can only occur when our brain is resting but awake. Unfortunately, we’re prone to pull out our phones at just that kind of time– when we wake up in the morning, on public transportation, waiting in line, before we go to sleep at night. If you’ve been feeling forgetful lately, keep your phone in your pocket next time you have a quiet moment and just be still.

 

 

2. A better night’s sleep

The blue light emitted by tablets, televisions, computers, and yes, smartphones, hinders our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us fall asleep. Even if you fall asleep without difficulty, you may still want to read a book before bed. This study found that people who were on their phones at bedtime needed more time to fall asleep, spent a lower percentage of their time in bed actually asleep, and slept worse overall.

 

 

3. Improved relationships

Relationships obviously improve when people are calmer, better rested, and have better memories, but research shows relationships are helped in other ways as well when the phones are turned off. There’s a whole new line of research on “technoference” and its impact on relationships. Parents say their co-parenting improves when their phones are put away– they notice each other’s signals and work together more seamlessly.  Researchers have noticed that toddlers disintegrate when mom and dad check their phones and perk back up when devices are turned off. Women report more feelings of depression, lower life satisfaction, and lower relationship satisfaction when technology is allowed to interrupt couple time. Overall, pretty much every relationship in your family and social circle gets a boost when your phone takes a back seat.

 

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Social media makes you sad, study says

If you feel a little blue today, too much time on social media may be the culprit. A study published by the Public Library of Science found logging into Facebook predicts a decline in subjective well-being. In other words, Facebook is a mood killer.

 

Researchers texted the study’s participants five times a day for two weeks and asked them to the following questions on a scale of 1 to 100:

  1. How do you feel right now?
  2. How worried are you right now?
  3. How lonely do you feel right now?
  4. How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?
  5. How much have you interacted with other people directly (face-to-face or on the phone) since the last time we asked?

 

The participants  also took other assessments measuring their satisfaction with life, motivation for using Facebook, loneliness, number of Facebook friends, level of depression, self-esteem, and how supported they felt on Facebook. Even after controlling for all these variables, researchers still found that the more time the study’s participants spent on Facebook, the worse they felt. Furthermore, those who spent greater amounts of time on Facebook during the two week period of the study experienced a significant decline in life satisfaction in that time. The more time on Facebook, the sharper the decline.

 

You can read the original study here.

 

While social media can be wholesome and fun, it’s important to understand the less obvious side effects. Teens and young adults especially should understand contribution social media makes to feelings of dissatisfaction, sadness, and loneliness. Periodically taking breaks from social media can keep our lives in balance and help us remember just what we all did before smartphones. Parents, lead by example– kids often can’t tell the difference between a work email and checking Facebook, so follow any screen time rules you set scrupulously and encourage frequent tech-free family time. Demonstrating a healthy screen/life balance will help kids understand there is life unplugged.

 

Enjoy life off-line!

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Just be yourself on social media, study says

Some people rant and rave online, but have a hard time standing up for themselves in person. Some people create shiny social media profiles that omit the gritty side of life. Some people make intimate confessions online they could never bring themselves to say out loud. No matter your style, if the discrepancy between your online persona and your off-line self makes you feel a little two-faced, maybe it’s time for a change. Research suggests closing the gap between your Facebook self and your IRL self leads to better mental health and a better social life.

 

The study, published in the academic journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, asked 164 people to complete surveys on mental health and social connectedness and two personality assessments: one as their online self, and one as their off-line self. The researchers found those with similar online and off-line selves were more socially connected and less stressed. You can read the study here.

 

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would be thoroughly confused by our tweeting, posting, and selfies. Regardless, he seems to have been a man ahead of his time in his advice: “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If our social media profiles are bubbly and positive, maybe we could infuse some of our day to day life with this optimism. If we are kind in person, but snippy online, perhaps we should picture the person on the other side of the screen. As we take the best of our online selves and our off-line selves, our world as a whole will be a kinder and happier place.

 

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Take a break from social media, study urges

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen say we’d all be better off if we quit Facebook.

 

The study, published on the Happiness Research Institute’s website, followed over a thousand people. These individuals were surveyed about their social media use and well-being– a social science term for life satisfaction and mood.

*Almost all (94%) of the study’s participants admitted they checked Facebook daily.

*78% said they spent half an hour or more on Facebook every day

*On a scale of one to ten, 7.6 was the average life satisfaction score

 

Those who participated in the study were divided into two groups. One group was to continue their usual social media habits. The other group was assigned to completely abstain from Facebook for the duration of the study– one week. At the end of the study, the participants were once again surveyed about their life satisfaction and mood.

*The Facebook users rated their life satisfaction at 7.75, an increase of 2%. The Facebook quitters rated their life satisfaction at 8.12, an increase of 7%. While this increase may seem small, keep in mind the Facebook quitters’ increase in life satisfaction is over THREE TIMES as great as the Facebook users’ increase!

*The Facebook quitters were all more likely to be happy, enthusiastic, decisive, and to enjoy life. They were also less likely to feel worried, lonely, sad, and angry.

*The Facebook quitters reported greater increases in their social activities AND their satisfaction with their social lives. Unsurprisingly, the jump in satisfaction with their social lives is much larger than that in the participants’ social activities. On Facebook, it looks like everyone is partying all the time. In reality, only Facebook is included in every party.

*The Facebook quitters found it easier to concentrate.

*The Facebook users were 55% more likely to feel stressed and 18% less likely to feel present in the moment.

*The Facebook quitters felt they wasted less time

*The Facebook users were 39% more likely to feel they were less happy than their friends

 

Not ready to give up Facebook? Post more often, try to be happy for friends’ achievements (and take everything with a grain of salt), and try to spend a little less time logged in. The study found that spending a lot of time on Facebook, scrolling and reading rather than actively engaging, and envying others online made the negative effects much worse.

 

You can read more about the study here  and here.

 

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